What if I told you that the best way to grow your business is actually not to prioritize your student clients, but actually to prioritize yourself? That you can be more successful the more you prioritize your own needs over trying to meet everybody else’s needs? That feels kind of controversial, doesn’t it? 

I’m gonna’ break down exactly what I mean by this and three different areas in your business in which you can practice being more yourself and prioritizing yourself, not your clients. And, I’m going to give you some examples for exactly how to do that! 

I can’t believe I have been coaching people how to start their businesses for over a decade now. I have seen a lot of folks go out there, and most of them have been very successful in creating exactly the right-sized coaching business they needed in order to accomplish whatever they wanted in their lives–whether that’s a transition to retirement or to having a nice, little side gig, or to completely transition careers from working inside schools to working outside of schools. In all of these transitions over the years, I have noticed that the more yourself you can be, the more successful your business becomes.

But, gosh, what does that even mean to be yourself, and how can you do that in the different layers that you have to work on in order to get a business up and running?

As I was preparing to bring this to you today,  I noticed there are three areas inside business building where you have lots of opportunities to prioritize yourself–which means being in touch with who you truly are and what you truly want–and to actually build a business structure based on that and not your clients. 

For those of us who are service providers and educators that might even be shocking. You may find yourself asking, “ I get to prioritize myself and not the students I work with? But will I even be a good coach if I do that?” and the answer is absolutely yes, you will! 

So let’s look at these different areas and discover what I mean and why you’ll be a better coach if you do prioritize yourself. We’re going to look at the administrative world, the marketing world, and then we will talk about the actual content that you’re coaching and how you can be more yourself with that, as well. 

Three Business Areas in which to Prioritize Yourself

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First, let’s look at schedule. A lot of folks, and even I at the very beginning of my coaching practice, just assume kids are only available after 3:30 and they will have to coach from 3:30pm to 8:00 or 9:00pm. Or, they may not want to coach on a particular night because their own kids have stuff they have to do that night that they want to participate in, but think they have to sacrifice that. 

I hear that a lot. The solution? Whenever you notice yourself in that passive victim “oh, I guess I have to/there’s no choice” space, remind yourself that there actually is a choice. It can be really hard to learn how to just say, “my schedule is my schedule–this is when I’m available, it’s what works for me, and if you, the potential client paying me money, aren’t available at this time, well, then you can go elsewhere. I have other wonderful coaches inside this community that I’m a member of that I can refer you to.” 

It’s such a hard skill because we’re so desperate for clients and we don’t want to pass up an opportunity, but what habits do we want to be building early on as we’re transitioning from a job that holds structure for us to our own business where we have to hold our own structure? If you don’t learn early on how to prioritize yourself,  you’re going to do what happened with me where I got really stressed and really burnt out because I was trying to help everybody else before I helped myself early on in my business. One reason I created the Rock Your Biz program is because I want you to get up and running a lot faster than I got up and running with fewer mistakes and more joys and successes than I had. I’m doing well now, but it took me a long time to get here and one of those reasons is because I was prioritizing students over myself. 

Next, let’s look at pricing. We often ask, “what can I get away with charging–meaning, what will people be willing and able to pay?”–rather than looking very specifically at “what do I need?” I’ve seen new coaches start with some very low coaching package fees and some with extraordinarily high prices. The ones who started high were looking at their own life. In particular, one coach I’m thinking of has a very specific illness that meant she could only see a small number of clients, which meant she had to charge more in order to meet her own energy needs and be able to meet students’ needs, as well. She is an example of someone prioritizing her health and her needs around prices…and, lo and behold, there were folks out there who wanted to pay those prices. The truth is, there are people who will pay as low as you want to go and as high as you want to go, so prioritizing your needs is important.

The third thing to be thinking about is policies. For this, we’re thinking of how do you handle late payments, appointment cancellations, scope creep in terms of the services you offer, refunds if a student changes their mind about coaching, and other interpersonal and financial situations that might arise. 

For example, you might ask, “how can I prioritize myself in my cancellation policy if someone wants to cancel an appointment or wants a refund?” You might consider how many hours notice do you require for a cancellation in order to reschedule or grant them a refund if they have to miss an appointment? You’ll want to think that through right away and be very clear about what will feel best to you. I used to not have any cancellation policy, and I ended up not liking that, so I changed it to 48 hours notice at one point, before I finally adopted a package structure instead of hourly pricing. With a package, my time and income were better protected, because if somebody canceled, I wasn’t going to lose money. Then, I also added drop-in office hours every week. Students could come to these for a boost of support, or come if they missed their regular appointment. 

By the way, if you want to hear more about office hours and how they work, you can come to my free, monthly Q&A and we can talk about how to structure office hours with your clients. Sign up here to get the Zoom link and send me your question in advance. 

  1. Marketing

The first way to prioritize yourself in your marketing is in your bio. How can you let potential clients know who you are and how you’re different from all the other academic coaches out there? Don’t just be general, and don’t just be professional.

Consider what’s special about you, what your interests are–your professional interests, but also your personal interests, what’s your history, what are your values…and share those things in your bio.  There’s another video in this series where we look more at how experiences you had when you were younger actually shape the kind of coach you want to be. You can tell those more vulnerable stories in your bio. The braver you can be in being yourself in your marketing and prioritizing your life experience rather than hiding it, the more people will connect to you more quickly. 

Another way to prioritize yourself is in your descriptions of your services. Here we do want to be results-oriented and convey what our families who we are working with will get, but we also want to include ourselves in our descriptions and not hide ourselves away. 

So many people come to me saying they don’t want to do social media or that they hate marketing, and one of the things I’ve learned as I grow my own marketing skills is that the more joyful we can be in our marketing strategies, the more “marketing” can be connected to actions that we truly just love to do anyway, the easier it is and the more effective our marketing is, so then we can get that steady stream of clients coming in. 

This also relates to the quality of the relationships we build. As an example, I’ve noticed when someone reaches out to me to ask questions about working with me or about my programs, I love to sleuth out what their interests are and if there are interests we have in common–to not just talk business, but to talk personal,  so we’re relating as human beings. There was somebody and I noted, because she has a website already, that she loves to go camping. I shared that I also love to camp and so we were able to have a dual conversation, both about the business question she’d reached out about, but then also about favorite places to go camping, making the conversation even more joyful. 

  1. The Content You Coach

I noticed early on as I was teaching my Anti-Boring Approach to other educators that they were feeling like they had to be like me, copy me, or be little mini Gretchens teaching the Study Cycle or the Study Senses or all of the different mini lectures that I have. I was, and still am, adamant that you do want to follow my recipe at the beginning because that’s a great way to learn a recipe, but it’s very important that it feels authentic to you and that you can make it your own. So many educators who come through my world come in with expertise that’s all their own and dovetails so nicely with the Anti-Boring Toolkit they learn from me. Really embracing yourself, your experience, your expertise, your desire, your callings is vital. Many people who come into my programs start learning how to be an academic coach and then they discover something deeper that’s even more exciting to them than academic coaching. They tend to resist it for a while because they’re like, “oh no, I came here to be a coach!” But my advice is to follow that calling, follow that desire. The more yourself you can be, the more successful your business will be, and, again, the more joyful YOU you will be in your business and therefore, the more joyful your clients will be with you! Really follow your intuition. 

Now, there are times when what we think is intuition is actually a sign that there is an old story that we’ve been told that we need to let go of, even though it feels true. So sometimes we do need a little support in differentiating true intuition vs. outdated story that doesn’t serve us. 

That’s why I invite you to come join my community and build your business in the container of community. We can help you discern when is that little voice an intuition calling you even deeper into being more of yourself at work…and when is that little voice the opposite of an intuition and actually limiting your ability to be more of your full self. We can figure that out together. It’s a wonderful, wonderful part of my job to support you in discovering how amazing you really are and then turning that into a way to support yourself and your family financially. 

If you’re feeling inspired to learn more about working with me, you can come experience my community first hand by joining me in the monthly office hours I mentioned. I answer questions from students and educators, and also am happy to talk about my programs, what it’s like to work with me, and answer any questions you have about becoming a better coach in the work you’re already doing or starting an academic coaching business. Sign up here for the next session.

Depending on when you’re reading this, we are coming up on a new year and, if you have been considering starting your business, now is a wonderful time to do it. I notice people who start in January have more energy and dedication because it’s a natural time of transition. This means that now, the month of November 2022, is a great time to come in, join the community, and be inspired to get your business going in January. If you’re reading this later, no worries! There’s gonna be another office hours available, so just go here to sign up

Be brave, step out, and practice prioritizing yourself. And, if you feel called, come and learn what it’s like to hang out in my community and practice being yourself while you’re doing that!